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Cats on the table

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Having been unable to meet HS2 criticism head-on, the coalition has increasingly favoured a ‘dead cat’ approach to communications.

[‘The dead cat strategy: How Tories hope to win the next election’, Adam Bienkov,, 24 November 2013]

“Let us suppose you are losing an argument,” Boris Johnson wrote earlier this year.

“The facts are overwhelmingly against you, and the more people focus on the reality the worse it is for you and your case.

“Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre that a great campaigner describes as ‘throwing a dead cat on the table, mate’.”

Going on to describe the manoeuvre he explains: “The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout ‘Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!’; in other words they will be talking about the dead cat, the thing you want them to talk about, and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.”

‘HS2 Plus’, the ‘Growth Task Force’, ‘HS2 College’, and ‘Northern Powerhouse’ initiatives can all be seen as manifestations of this kind of distraction strategy. The launch of David Higgins’ HS2 Plus report at Manchester town hall on 17 March 2014 was quintessential dead cat.

In mid 2013 there was disquiet on the government and Opposition benches following the announcement that the budget for HS2 had been raised to £50.1 billion. On 4 November 2013, the Department for Transport announced that David Higgins had been tasked with ‘driving down the cost of HS2’.

But when David Higgins presented his report, most people forgot it was supposed to be about cost reduction. Instead, HS2 Plus was largely about how high speed rail could facilitate ‘connectivity in the North’. The HS2 chairman had just thrown a dead cat on the table.


Written by beleben

August 22, 2014 at 8:53 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

One Response

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  1. They’re also using the “playing with the cat” strategy. Teasing all those purring cities – will they get a rail college? will they get an extra station? to keep them interested and on side until suddenly the toy on a string will be snatched away.


    August 24, 2014 at 8:46 pm

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